Heating and Cooling Plant at The University Of Regina

ARCHITECT Clifford Wiens
LOCATION Regina, Saskatchewan 

The Heating and Cooling Plant at the University of Regina (1967) provides heated and chilled water to the University of Regina campus buildings and is distinguished by a unique A-frame form of exposed precast concrete and weathering steel. Designed by Clifford Wiens, the building received a Massey Medal for Architecture (now the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest honour) in 1970. Saskatchewan-born Wiens once explained in an interview: “I had to build a case for anything more architectural than a steel box, so this A-frame is a concrete temple to technology, with concrete bays and removable end walls set to the precise size and shape required by heaters, pumps, switches and chillers.”

Precast concrete A-frames form the roof structure and also support the cooling towers of the plant. The outward force of the massive beams is counteracted by a series of post-tensioning cables that run through the floor and tie the building together. The north and south walls are glazed with translucent glass that filters the strong prairie sunlight, shading the interior and glowing symbolically after dark. The glazing is held in place by gaskets that allow the walls to be “unzipped” in order to perform periodic equipment replacement.

Exhibiting a strong, simple form that establishes an expressive link to the surrounding prairie landscape, the Heating and Cooling Plant rises from the flat Regina plain in the same direct and dynamic way that a barn or grain elevator appears on the prairie. The form of the building springs from the combination of a structural and an architectural idea, beginning with a close analysis of tension and compression elements that are resolved with architectural details of startling invention. The plant has been a landmark in Regina since it was built over 40 years ago and remains an example of innovative and expressive Modernist architecture.

Jury Comments

The Heating and Cooling Plant embodies the successful marriage of sophisticated structural design, contemporary materials, adaptation of plan and section to function, and expressive form that was the goal of the best of Modern architecture. The direct and unadorned industrial materials, their natural colours and simple forms reflect the utilitarian agricultural equipment and structures of the prairie farms with which Wiens was familiar, while the bold silhouette of the building recalls that ubiquitous prairie landmark, the grain elevator.

The jury for these awards was comprised of Martin Bressani, Natalie Bull, Michael McMordie and Yves Gosselin, AP/FRAIC, Jury Chair.